April 13, 2024

Igniting the spark for future-fit STEM careers

3 min read

South Africa is faced with an exceptionally high youth unemployment rate, with statistics showing that in quarter four of 2022, 43.4% of youth aged between 15 and 34 years who are not in education, employment or training were unemployed.

Against this backdrop, corporates and businesses have a crucial role to play in informing youth about the world of work, helping them to successfully find employment opportunities and build thriving careers and businesses.

“As we commemorate Youth Month, it’s imperative to recognise the importance of promoting and actualising youth development, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) where there is high demand,” says Sibonile Dube, Novartis head of Communications and Engagement for the Middle East and Africa.

“This month serves as a vital reminder of the urgent need to address the many challenges that young people face in pursuing STEM careers, as well as the need to develop innovative approaches to nurture their interest and confidence in these subjects.” 

Notably, South Africa’s agriculture, mining, transportation, telecommunications, manufacturing and healthcare sectors all rely heavily on STEM professionals. These industries require the expertise of field-specific engineers and scientists, geoscientists, programmers and developers, mathematicians, statisticians and medical professionals, among others. Amid high demand for these professions, it is therefore important for young people to pick up the mantle and pursue careers in these fields.

Novartis South Africa, the No. 1 Top Employer in the Pharmaceutical Industry in South Africa for 2023, is actively addressing this issue with its annual Learnership Programme. “This 12-month programme aims to attract, develop and retain talent – building a strong pipeline of talent within the industry while providing learners with vital experience to kickstart their career journeys. The goal is to help graduates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds gain skills and experience in a wide range of pharmaceutical, sales and management competencies,” says Dube.

“Our purpose is to reimagine medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. We use innovative science and technology to address some of society’s most challenging healthcare issues. We also discover and develop breakthrough treatments and find new ways to deliver them to as many people as possible. With this purpose in mind, we find it important to incorporate young people as best as we can in growing a talent pool that will help solve some of the most complex healthcare challenges.”

To mark Youth Month, Novartis South Africa held a Youth Day event in which learners from the current and past learnership programme cohort held conversations on navigating the workplace as young people. The event was attended by Novartis associates as well as Grade 10 and 11 learners from Bluehills College and students from Varsity College and Eduvos in Midrand.

“We strongly believe that we owe our title as the No. 1 Top Employer in South Africa’s pharmaceutical industry to our commitment to get youth in our community exposed to global organisations such as ours while getting the necessary information on local dynamics to prepare them for the future,” adds Dube.

By engaging in meaningful dialogue with youth, organisations can provide vital insights on how youth can become more employable, and gain insights on how to access great employee experiences. 

“Let us all commit to nurturing the potential of our young people, giving them the tools and support they need to thrive in an ever-changing world. In doing so, we will not only secure a prosperous future for our country, but also inspire the next generation of innovators, scientists and problem solvers,” she concludes.

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